Deep Thought and the Ultimate Answer

Today we are officially 42 days away from my 42nd birthday – that’s the more important birthday a person could have… well a person who loves the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and I certainly do.

42, as you may or may not know, is the answer to Life the Universe and Everything. See when a group of pan-dimensional beings created a computer named Deep Thought which takes 7 1/2 million years to compute the answer they got exactly what they asked for the answer said Deep Thought: 42. Obviously they were a bit confused by this answer and their planet was patiently waiting for an answer with festivities and awe… Fortunately for them Deep Thought knew they wouldn’t be satisfied with the answer and told them of a great computer that could give them the question that would fit the answer to Life the Universe and Everything. Deep Thought even helped them design that computer and that computer is called “Earth”.

Now Earth, according to the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy a truly wonderful, totally amazing piece of technology – at first with the following description: “Harmless”. But after Ford Prefect had visited the planet he managed to add to the description, thankfully, and it now says “Mostly Harmless” (obviously the writers had seen the US Congress in action).

Well as it turns out the day before Earth was to finally release the Ultimate Question to the Ultimate answer to Life, the Universe and Everything it is destroyed to make way for a hyper-space bypass – if you’re not expecting these kinds of things to happen, you’re really not prepared to live in the universe with the rest of us.

Now there really were really only two instances that anyone actually said they knew what the Question was… one was Marvin the depressed robot, one of the most wonderful characters in all literature, who said he could see the answer imprinted on Arthur’s brain (see Arthur was on the planet/computer Earth seconds before it was destroyed, fortunately for him he got to listen to Vogon poetry instead of dying horribly… well I guess that’s really a matter of taste, like any poetry really. And in the book Life the Universe and Everything Prak, a man who knows all that is true, confirms that 42 is indeed the answer and one would assume that if Prak knows all that is true he would also know for certain what the question was.

Anyway, back to my birthday which as I mentioned earlier is 42 days from now, I plan to celebrate in style. I’m flying to Las Vegas for a conference about the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. (You should note that the Big Book, Alcoholics Anonymous, references the number 42 in the chapter There is a Solution – coincidence? I think not. I have tickets to see the Cirque du Soleil show Ka at the MGM Grand and  reservations at  Craftsteak and a date local guy there.

I will have a freshly inked tattoo from my friend Matt at Jinx Proof tattoos in Georgetown – Matt is designing it and is fully aware of the importance of 42 and it’s significance  to the universe so it might incorporate a lot of things including, but not limited to: two white mice, at towel, the words “Don’t Panic” (which are written on the cover of each Hitchhikers Guide to Galaxy)… well, we’ll see what he comes up with in a few days.

So happy start to my birthday celebration to one and all, I know you’ve all been waiting for this day all your lives and I thank you for being so patient. If we don’t make it through the end of the year (perhaps they’ll come and destroy our planet to make way for a hyper-space bypass) I hope to see you all at the Restaurant at the End of the Universe if not before then.

Below you’ll find a few cultural references to the number 42 (from wikipedia):

On the Internet

The number 42 and the phrase, “Life, the universe, and everything” have attained cult status on the Internet. “Life, the Universe, and Everything” is a common name for the off-topic section of an Internet forum and the phrase is invoked in similar ways to mean “anything at all”. Many chatbots, when asked about the meaning of life, will answer “42”. Several online calculators are also programmed with the Question. If you type the answer to life the universe and everything into Google (without quotes or capitalising the small words), the Google Calculator will give you 42, as will Wolfram’s Computational Knowledge Engine.[18] Similarly, if you type the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything into DuckDuckGo, the 0-click box will read “42”.[19] In the online community Second Life, there is a section on a sim called “42nd Life.” It is devoted to this concept in the book series, and several attempts at recreating Milliways, the Restaurant at the End of the Universe, were made. In Facebook Chat there is an emoticon for 42 created by typing :42: .

Shortly after Adams died in 2001, the Darwin Awards Forums announced that, in his honour, the number of posts required for a member to get out of “newbie” status would henceforth be decreased from 50 to 42.

In the software, if you type into any cell of a spreadsheet =ANTWORT(“Das Leben, das Universum und der ganze Rest”), which means the answer to life, the universe and everything, the result is 42.[20]

ISO/IEC 14519-2001/ IEEE Std 1003.5-1999, IEEE Standard for Information Technology – POSIX(R) Ada Language Interfaces – Part 1: Binding for System Application Program Interface (API), uses the number ’42’ as the required return value from a process that terminates due to an unhandled exception. The Rationale says “the choice of the value 42 is arbitrary” and cites the Adams book as the source of the value.

The random seed chosen to procedurally create the whole universe including all the regions, constellations, stars, planets, moons and mineral distribution of the online massively multi-player computer game EVE Online was chosen as 42 by its lead game designer in 2002.[21]

Cultural references

The Allen Telescope Array, a radio telescope used by SETI, has 42 dishes in homage to the number.[22]

In the TV show Lost, 42 is the last of the mysterious numbers, 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, and 42. In an interview with Lostpedia, producer David Fury confirmed this was a reference to Hitchhiker’s.[23]

The TV show The Kumars at No. 42 is so named because show creator Sanjeev Bhaskar is a Hitchhiker’s fan.[24]

The band Coldplay‘s album Viva la Vida includes a song called “42“. When asked by Q magazine if the song’s title was Hitchhiker’s-related, Chris Martin said, “It is and it isn’t.”[25]

The band Level 42 chose its name in reference to the book.[26]

The episode “42” of the British science fiction television series Doctor Who was named in reference to the Answer. Writer Chris Chibnall acknowledged that “it’s a playful title”.[27]

Ken Jennings, defeated along with Brad Rutter in a Jeopardy match against IBM‘s Watson, writes that Watson’s avatar which appeared on-screen for those games showed 42 “threads of thought,” and that the number was chosen in reference to this meme.[28]

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